Depression do and do not’s.

by rodney on May 7, 2013

The last few days, there has been a lot of talk about depression and anxiety. It’s great to finally see these issues getting some attention in the media and it is fantastic to see so many people sharing their own personal stories. I was touched last week when many people that follow us on Facebook publicly shared their experiences with depression online after I posted an article about managing depression.

With a lot more exposure and awareness of depression and anxiety, more people will begin to notice signs of depression and anxiety in their friends and families.  Unfourtunantly, most people do not what to say or do when someone they know is living with depression and anxiety and in attempt to help, often say or do the wrong thing or worse say or do nothing.

Here is a list of things to do and also not do when you find yourself supporting a loved one living with depression or anxiety.

Do:

Ask if someone is ok. Often you’ll notice something is “not right” with someone but aren’t sure. If you notice that something is not right with some, ask if they are ok.  Let them know you have noticed some changes and that you’re concerned. Many people wait for someone to ask for help or reach out. The sad thing is many people don’t. Being proactive and asking if someone is ok will help.

Listen. Listening is the most important thing you can do. Listening to someone’s story will help them to vent their feelings- which will provide a relief from emotional turmoil, and validate what someone is experiencing. Many people tell me that listening is ineffective because it doesn’t solve a problem. Listening is the important first step to solving any problem. If problems are to be solved, you need to talk and have someone listen.

Encourage people to seek help. Issues like depression and anxiety are big, complex issues. No one can solve them on their own. You may not know what to do to help and you may feel in over your head. What you can do is encourage people to seek help from the professionals who can help them. A good place to start is encouraging people to see their GP, a counsellor, Psychologist, a spiritual leader such as a Pastor or Priest- if they are religious, teacher- if they are students. Encouragement and support people will help people to solve deep and complex issues.

Do not:

Judge or ridicule. This is the worst thing you can do. Often when blokes admit to depression, anxiety or emotional turmoil, the response they get is they are called “women”, “weak”, “sooks” and so on. This ridicule and judgement not only does nothing to help with emotional issues, it also does damage by effecting the self-esteem and coping strategies of people and results in people not seeking help they need.

Tell people to harden up. This also is not helpful. When someone is experiencing depression or anxiety, talking and emotional vulnerability is what will work to help restore peace and happiness. Hardening up will only serve to supress negative feelings which will bottle up over and eventually result in an emotional and physical breakdown.  Instead, encourage people to seek professional help.

Joke or make light.  When people reveal to you that they are experiencing depression or anxiety, it is natural, particularly for men, to joke or make light of the situation. Depression and anxiety can be pretty heavy issues, so making light helps to protect you against how difficult and confronting it can be. However, making light of these issues DE validates the experience people are going through.  If you do feel uncomfortable, encourage people to seek professional help.

When someone you know is experiencing depression or anxiety, it is natural want to help. The good thing is you don’t need to work miracles to do that. Listening, understanding and encouraging people to seek help will make a huge difference in the lives of people you love.

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